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Whistler's watermarks

The Pro Patria watermark

 

Photographed in transmitted light, the etching Millbank 1861 from the Thames Set shows the watermark of a lion rampant on a shield with the initials M and C and part of a countermark MDCCCXXVIII (1828) Collection: National Gallery of Australia

Pro Patria translates as ‘for the fatherland’.

There are two kinds of Pro Patria watermark: the ‘Britannia’ form used by continental papermakers producing papers for the British market; and the 'Maid of Dort’ form, produced for general sale.

The Britannia motif was current in the late 18th century.1 It is rendered in several ways – on the theme of a medallion, round or oval, surmounted by the British crown. In the centre of the motif is a traditional image of Britannia, robed, seated and seen in profile. In one hand she holds a spear; in the other a single stem of flowers or leaves. At her side is a shield emblazoned with the core of the British flag. A band within the circumference of the medallion carries a motto such as ‘EIESQUE … LIBERTATE … PRO PATRIA’, ‘PRO REGE … ET … PRO PATRIA’, or ‘RULE … BRITANNIA … RULE’.

The 'Maid of Dort' form of the Pro Patria watermark was more ornate, and was used over a wider geographic range. Churchill's Watermarks in paper in Holland, England, France etc., in the XVII and XVIII centuries and their interconnection includes images of 27 versions of the 'Maid of Dort'.2 Heawood’s Watermarks, mainly of the 17th and 18th centuries includes 22 versions.3

The 'Maid of Dort' is a national symbol for Holland. ‘Dort’ is the Anglicised diminutive of Dordrecht, the oldest city in Holland. The seated maid, (holding a hat on the point of spear) and rampant lion (brandishing a sword and holding a bundle of arrows) – both located within a palisade – represent Holland, surrounded by her fortified frontiers, maintaining liberty by the force of arms.4

Amsterdam was the home base of the 'Maid of Dort' watermark throughout the 18th century. Given Whistler’s predilection for ‘old Dutch’ papers, it is unsurprising that more examples of it are found in the National Gallery of Australia's Whister print collection than any other watermark.

The Maid of Dort form of the Pro Patria watermark

The 'Maid of Dort' form of the Pro Patria watermark
click to enlarge

The Maid of Dort form of the Pro Patria watermark - version

In this example ‘the lion has abandoned his handful of arrows and the maid has cast away her lance and its impaled hat in favour of an immense stylised flower'.7
click to enlarge

Russian mills used the elements of the maid, the lion, the hat and the palisade in a variety of combinations, a few including the motto Pro Patria.5 The full image, with minor variations in detail, was used in Denmark at the Erikshaab Paper Mill, Hillerslev in Funen; the example cited by Voorn was still in use in 1835.6 Some of these renderings varied significantly in detail and spirit from the original, eg the droll version used by the Gransholm Paper Mill of Southern Sweden c.1790. 

Papers in the National Gallery of Australia's Whistler print collection identified as bearing the Pro Patria watermark include:


Kassandra Coghlan
and Bill Hamilton

Notes
1 Churchill, WA, Watermarks in paper in Holland, England, France etc., in the XVII and XVIII centuries and their interconnection, 1935 authorised reprint Amsterdam: B DeGraaf, 1985, figs. 214, 221, 228 and pp.75–76.
2 Churchill, WA, Watermarks in paper in Holland, England, France etc., in the XVII and XVIII centuries and their interconnection, 1935 authorised reprint Amsterdam: B DeGraaf, 1985, figs. 127–153 and pp.71–72.
3 Heawood E, Watermarks, mainly of the 17th and 18th centuries, Hilversum, Holland: The Paper Publications Society, 1950 figures 3696–3718; plates 491–497.
4 Churchill, WA, Watermarks in paper in Holland, England, France etc., in the XVII and XVIII centuries and their interconnection, 1935 authorised reprint Amsterdam: B DeGraaf, 1985, p.44.
5
Uchastkina, ZV, A history of Russian hand paper-mills and their watermarks, Hilversum, Holland: The Paper Publications Society, 1962, plates 288–314.
6
Voorn H, Danish and Norwegian paper mills and their watermarks, Hilversum, Holland: The Paper Publications Society, 1959, p.46 and illustrations in endpapers.
7Churchill, WA, Watermarks in paper in Holland, England, France etc., in the XVII and XVIII centuries and their interconnection, 1935 authorised reprint Amsterdam: B DeGraaf, 1985, p.31.